We wanted to do a pub crawl together and write about it, but all we planned was to meet at Circle Brewing around 8pm and then follow the path of the Capital Metro train, aka the Red Line. Almost five hours later, we went home blitzed, but a group text preserved our conversations about ghost clothes, Game Dads, and time.
Maurice Graves: I know there were already thoughts about ghosting the whole idea of pub-by-train, because the one thing that writers like us never tell you is that planning is actually important. If you, loyal Chron-ling, decide to grab your pals for a Red Line tour, take a moment to check the damn train schedule and time your stops (just take our dipshittery to heart!). It almost derailed our plan before we even started because timing is everything in pub crawls and this city is comical with its train schedules, at least on Fridays (about one hour between trains). Circle was a solid start, though. The 7-year-old North Austin brewery has expanded their menu from mid-table ABV beers, to a spectrum of low and high ABV options. This is handy for the dingalings who want to go ass-end into the long night with a 9% Party Pig Imperial Porter. I opted for the 4.8% Fanny Pack Kolsch because I was the only one who knew how the choo-choo worked in this group and I needed to stay woke.
Emily Beyda: This was where I first realized I was in trouble. You guys were on your second beers, I was on my first and already feeling tipsy when the talk, inevitably, turned to ghost outfits. What outfits do ghosts wear? (I stand by my original assertion that they can wear any of the clothes in museums.) What outfits would we wear if we were ghosts? Obviously this is important stuff, and a thrilling example of Service Journalism at its finest, but I couldn't help thinking of the ghosts and their outfits as we began our slow trek across the darkened expanse of the brewery parking lot to the [Kramer] train station. "Well, this is it," I thought. "This is where I get mugged by a ghost. I hope he's wearing a good outfit." This kind of highlights the problems of drinking between trains: There are long periods of waiting around, followed by an abrupt hustle to the station where you may or may not get mugged by a ghost.
Jessi Cape: I brought up ghost clothes because I was so damn hot that I considered cutting my jeans off, but I didn't wanna wear raggedy jorts for eternity if something went haywire on the bar crawl. And I drank that second beer really fast because I was so confused about the train sitch that I thought y'all were trying to get me to walk 2 miles already and those sweaty jeans would've been the death of me. I thought, "Everything's better with a buzz, so bottoms up, biatch." Also, for the record, that creepy "darkened expanse" was a short walk, but one I only made in my gold platform Tevas because I was reasonably certain no one would mess with me and Emily with the two big dudes in tow (Graves, and fellow Chronster, Michael Bartnett, who was along to photograph and, apparently, bodyguard). My favorite quote of the eve, courtesy of one buzzed Beyda, happened around this time, and all I know is it had something to do with Japanese cloud pancakes: "Don't body shame scallops."
We hop off the train at the Crestview Station, aiming for a bathroom and Vigilante Gastropub & Games, only to find out it is packed.
EB: There were way too many Game Dads here [at Vigilante]. That's honestly my main problem with modern socializing – how often people will try to make you play games. No thanks, Game Dads. I am easily frustrated and like ignoring rules.
MG: Yeah, right off the bat, you'll notice that the folks here are playing board games that come in, like, wooden boxes, none of that pressed cardboard shit. It's like going into Paul Newman's pool hall and he whips out a custom pool cue on your ass. You have about the length of time it takes for him to screw it together before you collect your dignity and bounce. So we did.
EB: The beer we had here [at Black Star] was really good, a sour guava thing that was super refreshing in the hot summer night. It's a pretty civilized atmosphere, too, so it's a good thing it was relatively early on the tour. Lots of family groups drinking beers and chatting on the patio. Sorry for insulting your tribal ways, Game Dads. I hope you enjoyed all those wooden tokens. This is also where we started fighting about the train. Jessi tried to convince us that we could wait for the next train because "time isn't real" (she cited Philip K. Dick, but I'm skeptical), but we didn't buy it and our very nice Uber driver (shout out to Moses!) had to listen to us arguing some more about linear time.
JC: It's my way of paraphrasing Dick's book, Time Out of Joint, to justify my inability to master the art of timeliness. Or care.
MG: Mind you, this was only our second stop on the tour and it had been AGES since we'd last had drinks at Circle. Sobriety was really nagging and we considered popping in for a shot of low-end tequila at a taco shop; instead we dutifully downed our kettle sours from Black Star. (You should always drink the kettle sours at Black Star that Emily describes above, only much more poetically.) This is about the time I started wondering if Train Crowlers were just the kind of wacky idea to get this party out of neutral. Speaking of neutral, don't do the rideshare part. Or Train Crowlers™ – that's illegal! But time was of the essence and this buzz wasn't gonna catch itself. By the way, you might want to tell your pals that your future Red Line Pub Crawl will have to start at 7:45 in the morning.
JC: I think that craving for cheap liquor brought up the chat about improving cheap vodka with a Brita filter. Speaking of drinking on a budget, we got all four of those beers for $23.50 (including tip because that's the thing there), and yeah, that sour guava beer was super delicious. Also, I'm pretty sure we were Moses' favorite passengers all night.
We arrive at Brewtorium, next to Blue Genie Art Bazaar and across from the Milk Bank.
JC: Emily sang me a song about the waxing and waning moon as we walked up and it was lovely but I can't remember a single lyric. Only her angelic voice.
EB: There was a baby here! A real baby, sleeping in his baby box with a blanket slung across his face. So the vibes were pretty low key, especially for a Friday night, but considering that they were probably closing in 15 minutes you really can't blame 'em. There was some debate on whether or not we should get soft pretzels/whether or not soft pretzels suck. (They mostly do – fight me!) We actually made the train, even though I kept accidentally calling it a boat. But we jumped the train tracks (Stand by Me jokes in tow) and managed to get on board in time for Jessi to seriously contemplate climbing up onto the luggage racks for a quick nap. She didn't, much to my disappointment.
MG: You might be wondering what our consumption count is at this point, but I can only statistically vouch for myself and say, like, four-ish. I keep downing the dregs of everyone's unfinished pints as they hand them to me in utter train-makin' failure, but I can say that I had at least a four-spot of my own. I grabbed another pint of the recently introduced Dad Jokes Mexican Lager, which is corny and citrusy and so damn delicious on a sweaty adventure like this, thinking about making a train every 45 microseconds. Anyway, the others are actually invested in making a list of all the ghost-themed indie movies of the Nineties that starred Robert Downey Jr. (only one), while I stare at them blankly for words I recognize. We definitely need Train Crowlers.
JC: Heart and Souls! I was on numero cuatro, too, and I think it was the Sol Surfer pale ale that I really liked. I think this was the train ride where that squirrely guy asked Mike if he wanted some free gonorrhea. (Mike politely declined.) And we wanted to take a shot at Barfly's, but for stupid time's sake, we responsibly hopped the train to Plaza Saltillo.
EB: Which was kind of a bummer, because Barfly's has the best jukebox in town and I was more than ready to get down to some Buzzcocks. Although, the girl who put a curse on me likes to hang out here, so maybe it's for the best.
We finally got there and looked around for two minutes before agreeing on Liberty.
EB: Unlike the MLK stop (which Jessi dubbed "Desolation Row"), the Plaza Saltillo stop is right in the heart of everything. This stop is kind of an amazing resource, considering what a nightmare driving through nests of Eastside bars can be, even if you're totally sober (don't drink and drive, kids). We went to Liberty because it's close, and they have the best bathroom graffiti in town, and because me and the door guy have a tradition where we show each other pictures of cute dogs, so it was nice catching up with an old friend. We celebrated ending the tour with a whiskey/beer pairing, a mistake I spent a lot of time reflecting on the next day as I nursed a full quart of sparkling water on my morning flight to the East Coast.
MG: I will go to war for this bar and lucky for this squad I DID NOT HAVE TO. Everyone loves Liberty, so as random as the pick may have seemed at the time, the draw of this East Austin bar that sits only two blocks from Plaza Saltillo was as random and unlikely as LeBron going to the Lakers. Besides, every pub crawl needs to be bottom-heavy with the G.O.A.T. bars coming in last to propel the night to legacy status. It goes without saying that we finally earned God's mercy with a round of shots (Jamie, Jamie, Jamie, Fernet) as per tradition, and all the pints we could reasonably order (Adelbert's Hibiscus Saison, Real Ale Axis IPA; love us back, Liberty). Plus, there's always a nice hipster breeze on a hot night from making drink laps to the bar. We felt this was the natural end of the line. Our own red line.
JC: I wish I'd taken a picture of that nice Bourdain bathroom tribute, y'all. And I wish I knew what kind of E.T. phone home pact Graves and I were making in that picture (which really highlights my swamp monster nails). I was talking at supersonic warp speed by this point, a fact that should have predicted – and prevented – the Domino's pizza (extra cheese, extra sauce, and banana peppers!) that I ordered on the rideshare home and wolfed down so fast it burned the skin off the roof of my mouth. Alas, it did not.
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